Ofcom has announced its plans for the auction, rollout and consumer availability of 4G mobile broadband.
The regulator has confirmed that the process will get underway by the end of 2012. However, bidding is unlikely to take place until early in 2013. Ofcom expects rollout to start from mid-2013 and then for it to be available to consumers to use on devices like smartphones later in the year.
See also: O2 and Vodafone join forces for 4G rollout.
Ofcom said: "The largest ever auction of spectrum for mobile services in the UK is set to get under way by the end of 2012, Ofcom announced today, laying the path for next-generation 4G networks to be rolled out next year."
See also: Broadband advisor.
The spectrum auction will offer around three quarters of the spectrum which is being used today and 80 percent more than the 3G auction of 2000. The goal is that 98 percent of the UK will be reached with the 4G network by the end of 2017.
Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom said: "The 4G auction has been designed to deliver the maximum possible benefit to consumers and citizens across the UK."
Ofcom has said there will be at least four credible national wholesalers of 4G mobile services. A minimum amount of spectrum will be reserved for a fourth operator, either Hutchison 3G or a completely new candidate.
The 4G auction will offer at least two spectrum bands – 800MHz and 2.6GHz with the former being well suited to providing high levels of coverage.